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Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant Hardcover – January 9, 2007

348 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This unique first-person account offers a window into the mind of a high-functioning, 27-year-old British autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome. Tammet's ability to think abstractly, deviate from routine, and empathize, interact and communicate with others is impaired, yet he's capable of incredible feats of memorization and mental calculation. Besides being able to effortlessly multiply and divide huge sums in his head with the speed and accuracy of a computer, Tammet, the subject of the 2005 documentary Brainman, learned Icelandic in a single week and recited the number pi up to the 22,514th digit, breaking the European record. He also experiences synesthesia, an unusual neurological syndrome that enables him to experience numbers and words as "shapes, colors, textures and motions." Tammet traces his life from a frustrating, withdrawn childhood and adolescence to his adult achievements, which include teaching in Lithuania, achieving financial independence with an educational Web site and sustaining a long-term romantic relationship. As one of only about 50 people living today with synesthesia and autism, Tammet's condition is intriguing to researchers; his ability to express himself clearly and with a surprisingly engaging tone (given his symptoms) makes for an account that will intrigue others as well. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Although Tammet is only 27, his autobiography is as fascinating as Benjamin Franklin's and John Stuart Mill's, both of which are, like his, about the growth of a mind. Not that Tammet is a scientist-statesman or philosopher. He is an autistic savant who can perform hefty arithmetical calculations at lightning speed and acquire speaking competency in a previously unknown language in mere days (the latter capability he used to create the Web-based language-learning systems with which he supports himself). More socially competent and independent than the autistic savant famously played by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tammet shares his peers' strong preferences for routine, peace and quiet, private space, and literalness, as well as aversion to chance occurrences, aural and informational noise, and figurative language (despite his arithmetical gift, he can't do algebra; he reads a lot but never fiction). He learned fellowship very gradually and says he couldn't really acknowledge his eight siblings until he grew up. He also writes some of the clearest prose this side of Hemingway; he tells his story with such concentration, precision, and simplicity that his familial poverty, schooling as a "mainstreamed" student, self-realization as gay, and embracing of Christianity prove as enthralling as they are, ultimately, normal. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416535071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416535072
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (348 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Daniel Tammet is a writer and essayist. A 2007 poll of 4,000 Britons named him one of the world's "100 living geniuses." An autistic savant, he perceives words and numbers as shapes and colours and speaks several languages. His memoir, the award-winning New York Times bestseller Born on a Blue Day, has been translated into 24 languages. He is also the author of the international bestsellers 'Embracing the Wide Sky' and 'Thinking in Numbers'. In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of Great Britain's Royal Society of Arts. He lives in Paris.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

268 of 281 people found the following review helpful By Yesh Prabhu, author of The Beech Tree VINE VOICE on January 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an astonishing book, written in first person. It is a memoir of the author's life with the "synaesthesia and savant syndrome", a rare form of Asperger's syndrome.

People with synaethesia see numbers as forms with color and texture, and days as vivid colors, and so Daniel Tammet has the ability to see in his mind numbers and days as colors, each number and day having its own distinct color as an attribute. A day with a color, like a flower with a scent! The blue day of the title of this book refers to Wednesday, which, like the number nine, he sees in his mind as blue. "I know it was a Wednesday," narrates Tammet, "because the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number nine or the sound of loud voices arguing."

Daniel is also a savant, with a remarkable ability to multiply and divide given numbers with astonishing speed. He can recite from memory the number pi, 22 divided by 7, or 3.1428571 to 22,514 decimal places, a feat which will take him a little over five hours! He says numbers are beautiful things, and that pi is as beautiful as Mona Lisa.

Like Christopher John Francis Boone, the fifteen year old hero of Mark Haddon's novel, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time", Daniel, too, is very fond of prime numbers. "Prime numbers feel smooth, like pebbles," he says. He can recognize every prime number up to 9,973. He can speak in ten languages, including Icelandic, Lithuanian and Welsh, and he has the ability to learn a new language within a few days. He learnt Icelandic, for example, within a week; a most remarkable feat for any human being. He doesn't understand jokes easily, and the expressions on human faces he finds baffling. And like Christopher, he doesn't like to be touched.
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119 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Janeane R. Henderson on January 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A must read for parents and family of autistic children and adults. To finally discover an explanation for the little habits...obsession with spinning, walking in circles, plugging/covering of the ears, rocking... It's all here in one place. While I have become very accustomed to my son's habits, I have never understood what exactly was causing the behavior. After reading Tammet's book, I feel I can better help my son enjoy his environment.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then the savant gifts of Daniel Tammet are all the more startling because he has an ability to meld his senses together seamlessly to see things nobody else can. It's an impressive, even daunting prowess that comes at a high price since he has Asperger's syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes him to be limited in his ability to fit in with the larger culture, as well as synaesthesia, a condition where sounds, words or numbers can translate into colors, shapes or textures. In fact, the latter condition is reflected in the book's title as he associates the color blue with Wednesdays. What makes this book so thoroughly unique is that the book is not a treatise of a subject by a medical professional but a memoir by the subject himself.

As such, there are no grand conclusions drawn about either medical condition, or scientific assumptions of how Tammet came to his gifts. What the author does quite plainly is share how he approaches such astonishing feats as reciting pi to over 22,000 decimal points over the course of five hours. We get a palpable sense of how he perceives theorems and automatically develops strategies based on his innate sense with numbers and images. But before you can say Rain Man, you also see a young man who is actually functioning in the world on his own, which illustrates perfectly the spectrum of severity with autism. Tammet's affliction has mild enough for him to be relatively self-sufficient, even though his struggles to gain societal acceptance have been a traumatizing road.

Raised by loving parents, he spent most of his childhood alone and could only relate to fellow outsiders like immigrants and exchange students, people who heightened his facility for foreign languages.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Konrad Baumeister VINE VOICE on February 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of new and valuable material written on the experience of autism, much of it written from the points of view of either how to deal with an autistic child or a more medical explanation of symptoms. Reading about what it actually feels like to live with autism is very rare. Daniel's ability to so carefully describe to us how he experiences life is highly unusual and must be incredibly valuable to researchers.

Daniel Tammet is still a very young man, and his autobiography is necessarily not going to be very long. Moreover, due to the nature of his condition it was not until very recently that he has had much by way of dealings with the outside world. Much of the book takes place in his own mind, his relationships with numbers, logic, mathematics, chess and puzzles, essentially how his mind organizes its thought. One also finds how the tiniest irregularities in his routines - a dropped spoon, perhaps, or the ring of a cell phone - can not only disrupt his thought but can set him off on a 'meltdown' psychologically and physically, from which recovery may take minutes or hours. Order, quiet, routine, predictability and an internal logic assume incredible importance.

The part of his personality dealing with events outside his own mind is very fragile and stunted. Although Daniel comes across in his writing as a giving, kind and basically generous person, there is a lack of understanding, of feeling, what love, empathy, and interpersonal relations are all about. His discovery of another kind man in Neil, his partner, must have been an inestimable blessing, but no doubt a very rare one for a person with autism, and it has helped him slowly grow.
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